Skip to main content

Full text of "Men Of Mathematics"

See other formats

which, -without this work initiated by Abel, would have been
While in Paris Abel consulted good physicians for what he
thought was merely a persistent cold. He was told that he had
tuberculosis of the lungs. He refused to believe it, wiped the
mud of Paris off his boots, and returned to Berlin for a short
visit. His funds were running low; about seven dollars was the
extent of his fortune. An urgent letter brought a loan from
Holmboe after some delay. It must not be supposed that Abel
was a chronic borrower on no prospects. He had good reason
for believing that he should have a paying job when he got
home. Moreover, money was still owed to him. On Holmboe's
loan of about sixty dollars Abel existed and researched from
March till May 1827. Then, all his resources exhausted, he
turned homeward and arrived in Kristiania completely
But all was soon to be rosy, he hoped. Surely the University
job would be forthcoming now. His genius had begun to be
recognized. There was a vacancy. Abel did not get it. Holmboe
reluctantly took the vacant chair which he had intended Abel
to fill only after the governing board threatened to import a
foreigner if Holmboe did not take it. Holmboe was in no way
to blame. It was assumed that Holmboe would be a better
teacher than Abel, although Abel had amply demonstrated his
ability to teach. Anyone familiar with the current American
pedagogical theory, fostered by professional Schools of Educa-
tion, that the less a man knows about what he is to teach the
better he will teach it, will understand the situation perfectly.
Nevertheless things did brighten up. The University paid
Abel the balance of what it owed on his travel money and
Holmboe sent pupils his way. The professor of astronomy took
a leave of absence and suggested that Abel be employed to
carry part of his work. A well-to-do couple, the Schjeldrups,
took him in and treated him as if he were their own son. But
with all this he could not free himself of the burden of his
dependents. To the last they clung to him, leaving him prac-
tically nothing for himself, and to the last he never uttered an
impatient word.